The Earliest Sedonans – The Ancient Ones
Evidence that Sedona was discovered centuries before Columbus is still visible in the many ruins and petroglyphs, fascinating thousands of modern explorers who are drawn to this area each year.
The Anasazi, a Navajo term meaning “the ancient ones,” fished the rushing Oak Creek waters, farmed the land and tracked the plentiful hunting grounds. In prehistory, Sedona was a ceremonial meeting area and a major crossroads for trading routes from the north and from South America.
Today, among the red rock canyons of Sedona, one can view the remarkable remains of once thriving cultures – walking the ancient pathways and touching the ancient mortar.
Montezuma Castle, the oldest and best-preserved cliff dwelling in the Southwest, was constructed by the Sinaguans in the 12th century. A complex of 20 rooms was built into a cliff 100 feet above the valley. Another six-story apartment building of 45 rooms was built against the base, but it has not weathered as well. Early settlers, astounded by the sophisticated structures, mistook them for Aztec and the name they ascribed to the “castle” still remains.
Montezuma Well is a lush oasis of verdant growth in the midst of the desert. A huge sink hole formed by the collapse of a subterranean cavern, the well is fed by underground springs. Irrigation canals were developed from these springs by the agrarian Sinagua and Hohokam tribes.
Tuzigoot, the Apache word for “crooked river,” is a Sinaguan village built on a ridge above the Verde Valley. Originally a pueblo of two-stories in places, it had 77 ground-floor rooms, many of which have been restored to permit entry. The wood beams and stones almost breathe the lives of those who dwelled there between 1125 and 1400. The Visitor Center at Tuzigoot houses many artifacts found at the ruins, and has a life-size example of what an average room at Tuzigoot might have looked like long ago.
In the Boynton Canyon area, there are two Sinaguan sites remarkable for their petroglyphs and pictographs, symbols created by pigment rubbed into the rock. Visitors may explore these sites independently or take one of the guided tours, which are scheduled throughout the day. Amateurs enjoy recognizing some universal images, such as water, sun and animals. Or ask your tour guide for an interpretation. Do they portray events and the arrival of visitors? The guides provide historical background and weave magical stories about these people who disappeared so suddenly and mysteriously in the mid-1400s. It’s an experience every visitor treasures.